Shelter drive goes to the dogs (and cats) |

Shelter drive goes to the dogs (and cats)

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Any howls you hear coming from the Aspen/Pitkin Animal Shelter may be howls of delight.

Shelter supporters have reason to smile. Their capital campaign to build a new facility is more than halfway to its $2.4 million goal. And, a recent donation by two local philanthropists, coupled with an upcoming benefit showing at an Aspen art gallery, could provide the boost that leads to a long-awaited groundbreaking late this summer.

For shelter director Seth Sachson, dreams of a new shelter have gone from wishful thinking to architectural plans to – dare he say it aloud – the cusp of reality.

“It has been a long, long, long process,” he said. “Ten years ago, it was a dream, basically. I’ve been pushing for 10 years, but I’ve been making waves for four.”

The nonprofit Aspen/Pitkin Animal Shelter Capital Campaign has raised about $1.3 million since last June in $25,000 contributions. The group announced a $500,000 contribution from Larry and Susan Marx last week, including $250,000 that comes in the form of a challenge grant.

The Marxes’ “Lend A Paw” challenge will match contributions of at least $10,000. The donation comes from the Marx Family Fund at the Aspen Valley Community Foundation; Larry Marx chairs the foundation board.

If other contributors put forward $250,000 in response to the challenge, the nonprofit campaign will reach 60 percent of its goal – a significant threshold, as the city of Aspen will begin the permit process to build the facility at that point, Sachson noted.

“Larry and Susan’s challenge grant can give us the extra boost we need to make the shelter a reality in 2003,” he said.

Also forwarding the cause is “Artists for Animals,” a showing at the Elliott Yeary Gallery that will feature animal-related works, including a Pablo Picasso and an Andrew Wyeth.

The Hyman Avenue gallery will donate 25 percent of the net proceeds from the show to the shelter campaign.

The show will open with a reception on Friday, Feb. 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. and hang until March 30. Conceptual drawings of the new shelter will be on display at the opening.

The gallery’s Jason and Kelly Elliott gave an early, substantial contribution to the shelter campaign in the form of a donated Audi roadster, which was sold to kick off the fund drive, Sachson noted.

In addition, the city contributed $500,000, which allowed the shelter to get the architectural work and installation of utilities up to the site done while it works on raising the $2.4 million for actual construction.

“All that stands in the way is money,” Sachson said.

The fund-raising group plans to go public with its campaign this summer, seeking grass-roots contributions to coincide with several special events, like a Bow-Wow Meow Ball, according to Sachson.

Once the campaign hits 80 percent of its total goal, the city will seek bids for construction of the facility, he said.

The new shelter site, near the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus barn on Highway 82, will accommodate a 9,261-square-foot shelter. Plans call for a 6,317-square-foot shelter/kennel with two affordable housing units on the second floor, allowing two staffers to live onsite.

A lobby, visiting room and administrative offices are planned, along with the heart of the shelter – ample space for animals awaiting adoption and those being boarded at the facility.

The “cat condominiums” will include 26 kennels plus a playroom for felines. The “dog dormitory” will feature 50 kennels plus an outdoor exercise yard divided into four separate fenced-in areas.

“When this is done, it’s just going to be amazing,” Sachson said.

At the existing shelter at the Aspen Business Center, operations are funded primarily by kennel revenue – a philosophy Sachson terms “animals with homes supporting animals without homes.”

It is a no-kill shelter, where abandoned pets are kept until a new home can be found for them. The average stay for a shelter animal is about two months. The existing boarding kennel caters to about 20 dogs and four cats, while the shelter houses about seven dogs and 10 cats, along with the occasional bird or ferret.

The new shelter will also be a self-supporting, no-kill facility, Sachson said.

The existing shelter contains about 3,000 square feet of space and is 32 years old. It was deemed inadequate by a field representative of the American Humane Society about six years ago.

“The building is literally falling apart,” according to Sachson. “The homeless animals of Aspen and Pitkin County deserve better.”

Aspen and Pitkin County will own the new shelter, which Sachson will operate through a lease arrangement.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]

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